Dark clouds over Bountiful
Polygamist saga takes ominous turn with arrival of a self-styled prophet and his bodyguard -- who was in possession of ammunition clips for assault weapons
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Last week, Canada
Customs officers searched the car of an American driving across the border
The man is known to customs officials, says Jennifer Leenhouts, chair of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union's women's committee.
He is a bodyguard to Warren Jeffs, the new prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).
Jeffs was already in
What the officers
found in the bodyguard's vehicle were ammunition clips -- but no ammunition --
for a semi-automatic assault weapon, and some rifle shells. Because they didn't
find semi-automatic weapons or any other guns, and because the man's papers
were in order, he was allowed to enter
Within the last two
weeks, two "brides" -- polygamous "wives" -- from
People with close ties
The FLDS is a
breakaway sect of the Mormon Church that is under investigation by the RCMP and
B.C. government because of allegations of sexual exploitation, sexual and
physical abuse, trafficking in women across the
What divides the FLDS from mainstream Mormons is polygamy. While FLDS followers believe polygamy is the way to heaven, mainstream Mormons renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
Tensions within the
FLDS and fears of violence have been increasing since Jeffs took control in
September 2002 following the death of his father, Prophet Rulon Jeffs. Warren
Jeffs circumvented the usual succession order, and to maintain control over the
past year, he has excommunicated scores of senior leaders, including Winston
Blackmore, the former bishop of
Jeffs declared them apostates, pariahs doomed to eternal damnation.
The women and children were later redistributed to others loyal to Jeffs.
Because of Blackmore's
enduring popularity among more than half of
However, many fear that day is coming. Confirmation that Jeffs's
bodyguard was in
The rift is another
complication for investigators both here and in the
That's certainly what
Kirk Torgensen, chief deputy attorney-general in
Nearly four years ago,
There have been a couple of successful prosecutions, but it's tough slogging.
As Torgensen said Friday, it's impossible to infiltrate the community, which does not accept converts.
"It's easier to turn somebody in the Mafia than these people. In the Mafia, it's a lifestyle. With these people, it's their soul. It's an entirely different set-up."
Late last month, Jeffs's
nephew filed a civil suit alleging that he was repeatedly molested and
sodomized by Warren Jeffs and his two brothers over a two-year period when he
was five and six years old. The nephew, who is now 21, alleges the assaults
took place in the basement of a
Mark Shurtleff told the
In addition to the specific charges of sexual assault, the 24-page suit alleges that Warren Jeffs ruined the lives of an estimated 200 young men who were expelled from Colorado City and Hildale between the ages of 13 and 21 after they began to show an interest in girls their age -- girls largely destined to become plural wives of the leaders.
This is the same Warren
Jeffs who now has unprecedented access to
One of the things he teaches is that FLDS followers do not have to obey man's laws, only God's laws, and that God's laws are revealed to them through him, the prophet, who gets revelations directly from God.
"Priesthood is the celestial law," Jeffs said in a sermon last year. "Priesthood is the government, power and authority of God restored from heaven to earth, given to man; and it governs and controls all things . . . ."
Jeffs is subject to
investigations in two states for tax and welfare fraud is the one who will cash
a B.C. government cheque for nearly $500,000. The cheque is for
Education Minister Tom Christensen has said he's heard complaints about the school, but has no evidence that would cause him to stop funding the school.
continues to be supported by the majority of residents of
But Blackmore is fashioning himself as a kinder, gentler leader to the 600 or so people who remain loyal to him. He's recently started allowing his followers more freedom to do things such as watch TV, use the Internet and even adhere less strictly to the dress code.
It's this more relaxed attitude that is attracting disaffected and excommunicated Americans to his side.
And Blackmore is encouraging that by building new communes in Porthill, Idaho, just across the border from Bountiful, and in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho.